Day 14 – January Daily Blog Posting Month
Thankfully, our family has no issues with food sensitivities. Husband has some mild ragweed and cat allergies but that doesn’t stop us from having two cats, nor does it really affect his enjoyment of summertime. If anything, it’s a minor inconvenience.
For others, allergies are a significant part of their family. Having a child with an anaphylactic allergy is be extremely stressful, especially if it’s a food allergy and especially when that child is in school. In the U.S., the incidence of anaphylactic allergies (be it related to food, environment, or medication) is estimated to be as high as 50 per 100,000 person-years. There is a difference though between perceived allergy and true allergy, as this study in 2006 demonstrated. Anaphylaxis is estimated to be fatal in 0.7-2 percent of cases (http://www.uptodate.com/contents/anaphylaxis-symptoms-and-diagnosis-beyond-the-basics?source=see_link). Food allergies, particularly in the United States, is estimated to affect 6-8 percent of children under the age of five years and up to 4 percent of the general population.
Still, growing up, I don’t recall anyone having a food allergy. Do you?
Last year, in my daughter’s JK class, there was another child who had a gluten allergy so we were kindly asked to refrain from sending any gluten or wheat products in her snack. Now, the school is also nut-free (of course), so needless to say it definitely limited what we could send. For example, I couldn’t send any crackers. My kid loves crackers. Sure, I could spend $7 on a box of gluten-free crackers, but I’m not going to on principle.
I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but why has our society deemed it necessary to alter school policy such that nuts and gluten are now banned? What’s next? Milk products? Eggs? Where does it end? Why should my child not be allowed to bring a peanut butter sandwich because there might be another child in her class who is allergic? My child knows not to share food. She knows to wash her hands after meals. If she were the one with a peanut allergy, she would be told not to eat anything that wasn’t sent from home. She would have an Epi-pen on her person and she would know how to use it. And I believe at the age of five, she would understand that if she eats anything not sent from home, she could get very, very sick. She knows not to cross the street without looking and without a grown up.
As a physician I am wholly sympathetic to the parent who has a child with an anaphylactic allergy. I will sign whatever form is necessary for that child to be allowed to carry an Epi-pen. But as a mother? Totally different story. Now, I do understand that if I indeed had a child with an anaphylaxis, I would likely be tooting a much different horn. But I don’t have a child with an anaphylactic allergy and until I do, I will continue to be bothered by the fact that I can’t send her to school with a peanut butter and jam sandwich. It’s not my problem that another child has a food allergy and I kind of resent that it’s being made to be one. In the news recently, I heard that a mother in another city is launching a human rights case asking that her school district ban all dairy and egg products because her daughter, who is allergic to both, has repeatedly come home “wheezing” after being exposed. I’m truly sorry for that mother, to have to deal with that kind of allergy. It sucks. It really does. But if she wins this case, and now dairy and egg products are banned from all schools, what on earth are kids going to eat?